I’ve started cycling when I was 15 on a Kona Lisa that wanted nothing else but to stop rolling. A few years, crashes and nervous breakdowns later, mountain biking is not only part of my lifestyle, but is also part of my job.
More and more women start cycling and breaking down the judgment and pity walls when they come back to the parking lot sweating and bleeding. And it’s amazing. Groups, communities, and teams are being built by women for women, and it is so empowering to see that there is a lot more women in this industry than we think, we just got to give them a voice.
The cycling industry had, for a very long time, men as its headlining. Shops were and are full of men, trails are full of men and brands are being led by men. I feel like this is slowly changing.
5 years ago, I got my first job in a bicycle shop. I knew absolutely nothing about bikes since I started riding only a few years back. I learned quickly, I studied, I listened and then I knew just as much as the regular average man employee who worked with me. I was one of the 2 only girls in a 60 employees shop. I’ll let you imagine how that was like. Even if all my colleagues were super nice, they were also all sexist, even without knowing it. More than a few times, clients entered the shop and asked to be served by a man instead of me. More than a few times, I’ve been told by customers « You’re a girl, are you sure you know how to sell a bike? », but the very most common quote was « Do you even ride bikes? » as if because I’m a girl, I could not be good at bikes. Not that I was, but the fact that they assumed that I was not made me quite angry. Today, I could thank those sexist men, because they made me want to know SO MUCH about bikes, I wanted to be asked any single question and be able to answer it. That’s why I read, I educated myself and started being very, very into bikes.
When I left this shop a few years later, 3 of 4 other women were working there, challenging middle-age men about their knowledge on bikes. There was not a lot of women, but at least there were some.
I found out, with a very unprecise search that most men that refuse to be served by a woman is sports shops tend to not only know nothing about the sport in question but also tend to *suck* at it. Yes, I am generalizing, but the cycling industry is not that big, I crossed in the trails, some of the men that refused to be served by me at the shop, and they are the same men that seem to be offended to be passed by a woman while mountain biking.
Today, when I walk into a shop and get greeted by a woman, I am so stoked. Not only for her, but also for all the other ladies that walk in this store to get some advice on gear or on sports in general. Because walking in a sports shop, as a woman, is very intimidating. Because you KNOW, you just KNOW, that you may not be served as well as you would if you were a man. It can be very frustrating, to be advised products that are not necessarily the ones you need because the person advising you is assuming that you are not good as you let them know. It is frustrating that stores do not necessarily keep the gear that women would need if we sold them what they actually needed. I am not saying every woman rips on a mountain bike. I am saying it is not the job of the shop employee to profile the client and to decide their need. If a woman tells you she is advanced, believe her. If she tells you she is a beginner, great, believe her. And remember, if she tells you she is good or advanced, she is not « good for a woman », she is good, just good.